If you ever heard anything about Brazil, the Brazilian culture, or even the Brazilian food – then you probably already know that this South American country is a place where people not only know how to be happy, but also how to make others happy too, with their simple style of living.
If we take a quick look into the Brazil’s past, we will see the tragic history that unfolded here, including slavery, poverty and the European exploitation that lasted for almost 400 years. Fortunately, that alone was not enough to force Brazilians give up their freedom, especially our unique Brazilian culture and spirit, and also our peculiar rituals – which are still very much a part of our national identity.
Unlike some other countries, Brazil doesn’t have that special kind of origin, that can be narrated as a fairytale to kids. Just like a jigsaw puzzle – the Brazilian culture was mixed, assembled and built. The traditions of Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, the whole of Africa, and even of some Asian countries, such as China and Japan – are all the little puzzles that make up the Brazilian nation today. But what differentiates Brazil from some other former colonies is that while living in the yellow-green lands, people have developed a distinctive ‘Brazilian style’, which even if mixed – cannot lose its remarkable nature.
Nowadays, you will see a different country when you visit Brazil, and if you go to the big cities, like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, you might feel like you’ve just landed in Europe or the United States. Luckily, the truth is – all Brazilians carry that special cultural gene, which can be often seen through the most trivial things, like making a large black cup of coffee for breakfast, or relaxing with friends by playing soccer in the evenings, after finishing work.
Surely you must already heard of the Brazilian soccer and carnival, but what about some other lesser-known Brazilian traditions and customs? Well, I have something special to share with you here. Let us start with a list of the 10 unique cultural customs and traditions that Brazilians possess, and of which the world doesn’t know much about.
Every Wednesday it is the Feijoada day in Brazil. Feijoada is a dish, and its recipe involves dark beans, pork meat, and a lot of spices to make the taste even stronger that it already is. It is served with rice, onion, vinegar and tomato salad, as well as some cabbage baked with bacon.
This meal claims its origin from the dark times of slavery – the times when the poor slaves prepared their meal with the discarded meat pieces and some leftovers from their owners. Nowadays feijoada has become a delicious, traditional meal symbolizing Brazilian history. Every restaurant serves feijoada on Wednesdays, and if you’d like to make a Brazilian very happy – you should just ask him or her out on a lunch break to enjoy a feijoada.
Capoeira is another tradition that came to us from the time of slavery. It’s a ‘dance’ that was used to cover up the religious ceremonies that took place on the coffee plantations around the Brazilian coast. Nowadays capoeira is equivalent to a sport in Brazil. It can be taught in almost any city.
Just like karate or judo, capoeira has its own master levels which can be attained with practice and by taking some exams throughout the year. The capoeira’s motions look a lot like an actual dance, because of the accompanied rhythms coming out from the traditional instruments. But they also imitate fight moves and blows without any physical contact. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the Brazilian culture while having loads of fun.
3. Festa Junina (June’s Party)
To celebrate the day of Santo Antônio, São João and São Pedro, Brazilians started a tradition, known as the Festa Junina, a party that occurs sometime between June, July or even August. In its typical fashion, everyone dresses as cowboys and cowgirls, and dances in a coordinated group choreography, know as Quadrilha.
Sometimes the party hosts can put on a play about a wedding, where a couple would dress up like the bride and groom and lead the Quadrilha dancing. But the most important part of festa Junina is not the dance or the clothes, but the food! Every festa Junina includes the typically delicious Brazilian dishes such as those made with peanuts, corn and of course the sangria (a wine boiled with fruits). It’s a good party to take your family to, and especially the kids.
You have certainly saw or heard something about the Brazilian carnival at some point in your life before. It is undoubtedly one of the most grandiose festivals in the entire world. Some Brazilian states even declare a short vacation period in February or March, so that the locals could celebrate and have fun without worrying about school, college or their jobs. However, most are not aware that the carnival takes its origin from the Brazilian samba – a rhythm that can be played anywhere.
Samba is also very popular in the streets, bars, at the barbecues and even at the reunions between family and friends. Usually someone would play a guitar and a tambourine, though some singers prefer an instrument similar to an ukulele called a cavaco. Not all the Brazilians know how to dance samba, however most Brazilians enjoy listening to it while hanging out with friends.
5. Churrasco (not some simple barbecue, churrasco!)
Despite any problems or any bad things that could happen in life, the Brazilians always try to make things better by hanging out with a good group of people, and by enjoying… a great piece of steak. Unlike the American barbecues, the Brazilian barbecues are renowned for its flavors, deliciousness and the softness of meat.
Every day can be the day to enjoy a churrasco in Brazil, especially if you have invited a few friends over and want to chill out while eating a piece of great meat. The Brazilians would only use salt to prepare the meat, but sometimes they would also add sausages and cheese sticks to complement the meal. If you ever visit Brazil – you must try picanha, which is a special cut of meat, very famous in Brazil.
6. Festival de Parintins
Parintins is a folklore tradition that takes its roots in the state of Amazonas and is celebrated every June. The whole festivity is based around one old legend about two bulls – a red one (Garantido) and a blue one (Caprichoso). Just like during a football match, every Brazilian would choose a color to represent during the festival.
The cities also change for the festival and divide themselves in blue and red colors, cheering for the bulls while celebrating with friends and family. In fact, the Parintins festival is the biggest such festivity in Latin America and is one of the largest folklore celebrations in the whole world.
7. Círio de Nazaré
The Círio de Nazaré (The Taper of Our Lady Nazareth) is a typical Catholic festival that occurs every October in the Northeastern Brazil, in a city called Belém, the capital of the state Pará.
This tradition has more than 210 years behind it, and it involves traditional food, dances, and processions carrying the image of Our Lady of Nazareth all around the city. The image stays in the main square for 15 days, so that people from the nearby towns could come to the Saint to ask Her for help or to make a prayer. Our Lady of Nazareth is considered to be the Patroness of the Amazon forest, and is thought to be one of the greatest gifts to the Brazilian land. Every year the Círio de Nazaré gathers together more than 2,000 people – it’s one of the most popular and beloved festivals in Brazil.
If you are old enough legally to drink alcohol, you must try the most famous Brazilian drink. The Caipirinha is a mixture of lemon, sugar and a kind of a Brazilian vodka called cachaça. Cachaça is made of the same plant as sugar, but it is squeezed and brewed to make a strong and great drink.
In most Brazilian bars and clubs, you can choose the fruits and the vodka that you want to be used in your caipirinha, but the traditional one includes only lemon slices, lots of sugar, some ice to make it a bit less alcoholic and cachaça. You can find a Brazilian caipirinha all over the world, but it will never be as good as those served on the beaches of the Brazilian coast!
If you live in the USA or Canada, you probably know avocado as the salty fruit (yep, it’s not a vegetable) that can be eaten with bread, toast or any other snack recipe, right? Well, in Brazil things are a little bit different. Brazilians like to eat their avocado in a sweeter way – with sugar or honey, and sometimes even with both. In Brazil avocado is (and will always be) a fruit, and it is considered a sweet one. Some people also make juice with it, and if you are a fitness person who counts his or her calories – you can even freeze avocado and consume it as ice cream after lunch.
10. Brazilian People
You might have heard before that Brazilians are a little different from the rest of the World cultures. And that’s absolutely correct. Brazilians like to hug, give one another kisses on the cheek (in some regions even two – on both cheeks), hold hands while speaking with you and talk about each other’s lives. But most importantly – Brazilians like to talk and to hear others.
If you have a Brazilian friend you might have already noticed that he or she is particularly caring and thoughtful. That’s because Brazilian culture is built on trust and friendship. So, if you have a Brazilian friend – you surely have a friend for life.
To summarize – these are just a few examples of the unique and lesser-know Brazilian traditions and customs. The country is also rich with music, dance, food, nature, festivals, folklore legends, and the beautiful places that you can visit to learn more about our history and culture. Lastly, Brazil is a huge country and has numerous traditions and customs specific to each region, therefore it will take some time to know all about this amazing South American nation.